Stress Upon Stress

— Written By and last updated by Jessie Jones
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Hurricane Matthew’s ravaging waters hit Robeson County residents hard just a few short months ago. Slowly, we are starting to rebuild the flooded areas. One aspect many folks may not have thought of or, more likely, not had the leisure to think about is how our landscape may have been affected. Since spring is here for the second time this year (this time officially) we will shortly start discovering even more detriment as the plant kingdom awakens from her wintry rest.

Unfortunately, the flood waters came just as many plants were preparing for dormancy, inhibiting the plant from stocking up a full energy reserve. That factor alone will cause extra stress on plants. Now let’s consider the water factor. It came in a matter of hours, but the menace did not leave that quickly – some places of the landscape were submerged for days and weeks. This stressor has probably suffocated many roots and introduced root-rotting pathogens to the plants that escaped submersion. To extend the misery, symptoms of root rot may not show up until next year or beyond. The stressors don’t end there. As often the case in North Carolina, we have had an early spell of spring weather that was warm enough to cause many plant species to break dormancy. Of course, winter has not yet released us from her shivering grip and the recent freezes we experienced have shocked, and even damaged, the physiology of many plants being fooled into a premature spring. To say plants will be stressed this year is an understatement!

What can we do about the stress? Be patient if your plant is slow to green up, but be aware of all the stress your plants have endured the last six months – it’s possible the plant may succumb to the overwhelming stressors. Be attentive and try to provide the best possible conditions and correct nutrition for the plant as well as supplement water requirements by avoiding dry spells. A three-inch layer of mulch will conserve moisture, moderate the soil temperature, prevent mechanical damage to the trunk or bark, and reduce weed competition for the nutrients and water. Be observant for any pest or disease symptoms, so they can be addressed promptly.

Take advantage of the services provided by North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ soil lab and soil test your lawn. Soil testing will be free beginning April 1. Free boxes and forms can be picked up at North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, 455 Caton Road, Lumberton.

You should contact a certified arborist to assess damage of individual trees to determine their future health and survival. Certified arborists can prune trees, remove trees, plant trees, and treat insect and disease problems. You can locate a certified arborist by visiting or contacting me for a list of those who have registered to work in this area.

For more information, please contact Mack Johnson, Extension Horticultural Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 671-3276, by E-mail at, or visit our website at North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.